Friday, January 17, 2014

Essential Estate Planning for Young Adults

As my daughter gets ready to head back to college after her lengthy winter break, I made sure she took care of one essential piece of business in between her relaxation and spending time with friends. Earlier this week I had her stop in to the office to sign a financial power of attorney, health care proxy, living will and HIPAA authorization.

Once your children turn 18, a parent no longer has the right to administer a child's bank accounts or other financial transactions without a power of attorney, unless the parent is jointly titled on the account. Even then, the prudent course is to have the child execute a broad financial power of attorney to enable the parent to handle any and all of the child's financial matters if the child is unable to do so.

 Perhaps even more important is the execution of the various health care documents. It is important to have a conversation with your young adult child about their preferences for end of life care, and to ensure that the child appoints someone (most likely the parents) to have legal authority as health care agent to make health care decisions on behalf of a disabled child, including the final authority to terminate life support in a worst-case scenario.

The reality is that with older adults, family members are more likely to accept that providing life support for a loved-one in contravention of the physicians' recommendations is pointless. With younger adults, however -- such as the infamous Florida case involving Terri Schiavo -- in the absence of a written direction from the patient, controversy may erupt between the incapacitated person's parents and their spouse who may well have different opinions as to the appropriate course of treatment.

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